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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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lvi. ἁπλοῦς, ἀκέραιος, ἄκακος, ἄδολος.

In this group of words we have some of the rarest and most excellent graces of the Christian character set forth; or perhaps, as it may rather prove, the same grace by aid of different images, and with only slightest shades of real difference.

Ἁπλοῦς occurs only twice in the N. T. (Matt. 6:22 Luke 11:34); but ἁπλότης seven times, or perhaps eight, always in St. Paul’s Epistles; and ἁπλῶς once (Jam. 1:5). It would be quite impossible to improve on ‘single’1 by which our Translators have rendered it, being as it is from ἁπλόω, ‘expando,’ ‘explico,’ that which is spread out, and thus without folds or wrinkles; exactly opposed to the πολύπλοκος of Job 5:13; compare ‘simplex’ (not ‘without folds’; but ‘one-folded,’ ‘semel,’ not ‘sine,’ lying in its first syllable, ‘einfaltig,’ see Donaldson, Varronianus, p. 390), which is its exact representative in Latin, and a word, like it, in honorable use. This notion of singleness, simplicity, absence of folds, which thus lies according to its etymology in ἁπλοῦς, is also predominant in its use—‘animus alienus a versutiâ, fraude, simulatione, dolo malo, et studio nocendi aliis’ (Suicer); cf. Herzog, Real-Encyclop. art. Einfalt, vol. iii. p. 723.

That all this lies in the word is manifest from those with which we find it associated, as ἀληθής (Xenophon, Anab. ii. 6. 22; Plato, Legg. v. 738 e, and often); ἀπόνηρος (Theophrastus); γενναῖος (Plato, Rep. 361 b); ἄκρατος (Plutarch, De Comm. Not. 48); μονοειδής (De Proc. Anim. 21); ἀσύνθετος (==‘incompositus,’ not put together, ib.; Basil, Adv. Eunom. i. 23); μονότροπος (Hom. in Prin. Prov. 7); σαφής (Alexis, in Meineke’s Fragm. Com. Groec. p. 750); ἄκακος (Diodorus Siculus, xiii. 76); ὑγιής (Demosthenes, Orat. xxxvii. 969). But it is still more apparent from those to which it is opposed; as ποικίλος (Plato, Theoet. 146 d); πολυειδής (Phoedrus, 270 d); πολύτροπος (Hipp. Min. 364 e); πεπλεγμένος (Aristotle, Poët. 13); διπλοῦς (ib.); ἐπίβουλος (Xenophon, Mem. iii. 1. 6); παντοδαπός (Plutarch, Quom. Adul. ab Amic. 7). Ἁπολότης (see 1 Macc. 1:37) is in like manner associated with εἰλικρίνεια (2 Cor. 1:12), with ἀκακία (Philo, Opif. 41); the two words being used indiscriminately in the Septuagint to render the Hebrew which we translate now ‘integrity’ (Ps. 7:8; Prov. 19:1); now ‘simplicity’ (2 Sam. 15:11); again with μεγαλοψυχία (Josephus, Antt. vii. 13. 4), with ἀγαθότης (Wisd. 1:1). It is opposed to ποικιλία (Plato, Rep. 404 e), to πολυτροπία, to κακουργία (Theophylact), to κακοήθεια (Theodoret), to δόλος (Aristophanes, Plut. 1158). It may further be observed that תָּם (Gen. 25:27), which the Septuagint renders ἄπλαστος, Aquila has rendered ἁπλοῦς. As happens to at least one other word of this group, and to multitudes besides which express the same grace, ἁπλοῦς comes often to be used of a foolish simplicity, unworthy of the Christian, who with all his simplicity should be φρόνιμος as well (Matt. 10:16; Rom. 16:19). It is so used by Basil the Great (Ep. 58); but nowhere in biblical Greek.

Ἀκέραιος (not in the Septuagint) occurs only three times in the N. T. (Matt. 10:16; Rom. 16:19; Phil. 2:15). A mistaken etymology, namely, that it was == ἀκέρατος, and derived from and κέρας (cf. κεραΐζειν, ‘laedere’; κερατίζειν, LXX.), without horn to push or hurt,—one into which even Bengel falls, who at Mat. 10:16 has this note: ‘ἀκέραιοι: sine cornu, ungulâ, dente, aculeo, ’—has led our Translators on two of these occasions to render it ‘harmless.’ In each case, however, they have put a more correct rendering, ‘simple’ (Matt. 10:16), ‘sincere’ (Phil. 2:15), in the margin. At Rom. 16:19 all is reversed, and ‘simple’ stands in the text, with ‘harmless’ in the margin. The fundamental notion of ἀκέραιος, as of ἀκήρατος, which has the same derivation from and κεράννυμι, is the absence of foreign admixture: ὁ μὴ κεκραμένος κακοῖς, ἀλλ᾽ ἁπλοῦς καὶ ἀποίκιλος (Etym. Mag.). Thus Philo, speaking of a boon which Caligula granted to the Jews, but with harsh conditions annexed, styles it a χάρις οὐκ ἀκέραιος, with manifest reference to this its etymology (De Leg. ad Cai. 42): ὅμως, μέντοι καὶ τὴν χάριν διδούς, ἔδωκεν οὐκ ἀκέραιον, ἀλλ᾽ ἀναμίξας αὐτῇ δέος ἀργαλεώτερον. Wine unmingled with water is ἀκέραιος (Athenaeus, ii. 45). To unalloyed metal the same epithet is applied. The word is joined by Plato with ἀβλαβής (Rep. i. 342 b), and with ὀρθός (Polit. 268 b); by Plutarch with ὑγιής (Adv. Stoic. 31); set over against ταρακτικός (De Def. Orac. 51); by Clement of Rome (1 Ep. § 2) with εἰλικρινής. That, we may say, is ἀκέραιος, which is in its true and natural condition (Polybius, ii. 100. 4; Josephus, Antt. i. 2. 2) ‘integer’; in this bordering on ὁλόκληρος, although completeness in all the parts is there the predominant idea, and not, as here, freedom from disturbing elements.

The word which we have next to consider, ἄκακος, appears only twice in the N. T. (Heb. 7:26; Rom. 16:18). There are three stages in its history, two of which are sufficiently marked by its use in these two places; for the third we must seek elsewhere. Thus at Heb. 7:26 the epithet challenges for Christ the Lord that absence of all evil which implies the presence of all good; being associated there with other noblest epithets. The Septuagint, which knows all uses of ἄκακος, employs it sometimes in this highest sense: thus Job is described as ἄνθρωπος ἄκακος, ἀληθινός, ἄμεμπτος, θεοσεβής, ἀπεχόμενος κ.τ.λ. (Job 2:3); while at Job 8:20, the ἄκακος is opposed to the ἀσεβής; and at Ps. 24:21 is joined to the εὐθής, as by Plutarch (Quom. in Virt. Prof. 7) to the σώφρων. The word at its next stage expresses the same absence of all harm, but now contemplated more negatively than positively: thus ἀρνίον ἄκακον (Jer. 11:19); παιδίσκη νέα καὶ ἄκακος (Plutarch, Virt. Mul. 23); ἄκακος καὶ ἀπράγμων (Demosthenes, Orat. xlvii. 1164). The N. T. supplies no example of the word at this its second stage. The process by which it comes next to signify easily deceived, and then too easily deceived, and ἀκακία, simplicity running into an excess (Aristotle, Rhet. ii. 12), is not difficult to trace. He who himself means no evil to others, oftentimes fears no evil from others. Conscious of truth in his own heart, he believes truth in the hearts of all: a noble quality, yet in a world like ours capable of being pushed too far, where, if in malice we are to be children, yet in understanding to be men (1 Cor. 14:20); if “simple concerning evil,” yet “wise unto that which is good” (Rom. 16:19; cf. Jeremy Taylor’s Sermon On Christian Simplicity, Works, Eden’s edition, vol. iv. p. 609). The word, as employed Rom. 16:18, already indicates such a confidence as this beginning to degenerate into a credulous readiness to the being deceived and led away from the truth (θαυμαστικοὶ καὶ ἄκακοι, Plutarch, De Rect. Rat. Aud. 7; cf. Wisd. 4:12; Prov. 1:4 [where Solomon declares the object with which his Proverbs were written, ἵνα δῷ ἀκάκοις πανουργίαν]; 8:5; 14:15, ἄκακος πιστεύει παντὶ λόγῳ). For a somewhat contemptuous use of ἄκακος, see Plato, Timoeus, 91 d, with Stallbaum’s note; and Plutarch (Dem. 1): τὴν ἀπειρίᾳ τῶν κακῶν καλλωπιζομένην ἀκακίαν οὐκ ἐπαινοῦσιν [οἱ σοφοι], ἀλλ᾽ ἀβελτερίαν ἡγοῦνται καὶ ἄγνοιαν ὧν μαλίστα γινώσκειν προσήκει: but above all, the words which the author of the Second Alcibiades puts into the mouth of Socrates (140 c): τοὺς μὲν πλεῖστον αὐτῆς [ἀφροσύνης] μέρος ἔχοντας μαινομένους καλοῦμεν, τοὺς δ᾽ ὀλίγον ἔλαττον ἠλιθίους καὶ ἐμβροντήτους· οἱ δὲ ἐν εὐφημοτάτοις ὀνόμασι βουλόμενοι κατονομάζειν, οἱ μὲν μεγαλοψύχους, οἱ δὲ εὐήθεις, ἕτεροι δὲ ἀ κάκους, καὶ ἀπείρους, καὶ ἐνεούς. But after all it is in the mouth of the rogue Autolycus that Shakespeare put the words, ‘What a fool Honesty is, and Trust, his sworn brother, a very simple gentleman’ (Winter’s Tale, act iv. sc. 3).

The second and third among these meanings of ἄκακος are separated by so slight and vanishing a line, oftentimes so run into one another, that it is not wonderful if some find rather two stages in the word’s use than three; Basil the Great, for example, whose words are worth quoting (Hom. in Princ. Prov. 11): διττῶς νοοῦμεν τὴν ἀκακίαν. Ἢ γὰρ τὴν ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἀλλοτρίωσιν λογισμῷ κατορθουμένην, καὶ διὰ μακρᾶς προσοχῆς καὶ μελέτης τῶν ἀγαθῶν οἷόν τινα ῥίζαν τῆς κακίας ἐκτεμόντές, κατὰ στέρησιν αὐτῆς παντελῆ, τὴν τοῦ ἀκάκου προσηγορίαν δεχόμεθα· ἢ ἀκακία ἐστὶν ἡ μή πω τοῦ κακοῦ ἐμπειρία διὰ νεότητα πολλάκις ἢ βίου τινὸς ἐπιτήδευσιν, ἀπείρων τινῶν πρός τινας κακίας διακειμένων. Οἷον εἰσί τινες τῶν τὴν ἀγροικίαν οἰκούντων, οὐκ εἰδότες τὰς ἐμπορικας κακουργίας οὐδὲ τὰς ἐν δικαστηρίῳ διαπλοκάς. Τοὺς τοιούτους ἀκάκους λέγομεν, οὐχ ὡς ἐκ προαιρέσεως τῆς κακίας κεχωρισμένους, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς μή πω εἰς πεῖραν τῆς πονηρᾶς ἕξεως ἀφιγμένους. From all this it will be seen that ἄκακος has in fact run the same course, and has the same moral history as χρηστός, ἁπλοῦς, εὐήθης, with which it is often joined (as by Diodorus Siculus, v. 66), ‘bon’ (thus Jean le Bon==l’étourdi), ‘bonhomie,’ ‘silly,’ ‘simple,’ ‘daft,’ ‘einfaltig,’ ‘gütig,’ and many more.

The last word of this beautiful group, ἄδολος, occurs only once in the N. T. (1 Pet. 2:2), and is there beautifully translated ‘sincere,’—“the sincere milk of the word;” see the early English use of ‘sincere’ as unmixed, unadulterated; and compare, for that ‘milk of the word’ which would not be ‘sincere’ 2 Cor. 4:2. It does not appear in the Septuagint, nor in the Apocrypha, but ἀδόλως once in the latter (Wisd. 7:13). Plato joins it with ὑγιής (Ep. 8:355 e); Philemo with γνήσιος (Meineke, Fragm. Groec. Com. p. 843). It is difficult, indeed impossible, to vindicate an ethical province for this word, on which other of the group have not encroached, or, indeed, preoccupied already. We can only regard it as setting forth the same excellent grace under another image, or on another side. Thus if the ἄκακος has nothing of the serpent’s tooth, the ἄδολος has nothing of the serpent’s guile; if the absence of willingness to hurt, of the malice of our fallen nature, is predicated of the ἄκακος, the absence of its fraud and deceit is predicated of the ἄδολος, the Nathanael “in whom is no guile” (John 1:48). And finally, to sum up all, we may say, that as the ἄκακος (== ‘innocens’) has no harmfulness in him, and the ἄδολος (==‘sincerus’) no guile, so the ἀκέραιος (==‘integer’) no foreign admixture, and the ἁπλοῦς (==‘simplex’) no folds.


1 See a good note in Fritzsche, Commentary on the Romans, vol. iii. p. 64, denying that ἁπλότης has ever the meaning of liberality, which our Translators have so often given to it.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G172,G185,G573,G97.]

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